SOUTHWEST ASIA – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plays a vital role in supporting Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), said Col. Jerry Farnsworth, Combined Joint Task Force engineer.
“USACE has professionals and competencies that we wouldn’t have otherwise, such as dedicated project managers, real estate professionals, Forward Engineer Support Teams and others,” he said. “They bring a broad range of capabilities that enable the CJTF to accomplish the mission.”
Farnsworth has responsibilities in a wide array of missions, including ensuring mobility of forces, geospatial mapping, personnel movement, protection and sustainment.
“Engineers set the theater conditions for missions,” he said. “USACE helps with this.”
Shortly after the Combined Joint Task Force was created, USACE set up the Transatlantic Division – Kuwait Operational Command Post (OCP).
“One of the lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq is to stand up a small cell of USACE personnel to understand early mission requirements and develop options the task force commander can consider using,” said Lt. Col. Todd Heuser, Transatlantic Division Operational Command Post officer in charge.
Part of the Operational Command Post is a USACE liaison officer.
“A USACE liaison engages with us and helps access situations and recommends actions that the Corps has the capabilities to do.” said Farnsworth. “Any projects that we can’t accomplish ourselves, I can always count on USACE to help.”
In addition to the OCP, the Corps provides several other important assets to support OIR.
Various Forward Engineer Support Teams (FEST) conduct infrastructure assessments at multiple sites, which could potentially be used for training or to house Coalition Service members on advise-and-assist assignments. Once the assessments are complete, the teams develop potential solutions for upgrades and refurbishments to those sites. The teams are made up primarily of USACE civilians, although an Army reserve FEST team has also been deployed to support OIR. FEST teams could be sent anywhere within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to conduct missions.
The 249th Engineer Battalion, or Prime Power, has also deployed a platoon to perform electrical assessments and develop solutions to power requirements for potential sites. Prime Power currently has an organic power plant ready for deployment to support contingency operations if needed. The battalion also has a member on each FEST team to conduct electrical assessments at the sites.
“FEST teams and Prime Power have specialized capabilities that can move to an area of operations and provide assessment and plan what we need next,” Farnsworth said.
USACE has also deployed a dam assessment team to monitor dams, a tunnel detection team to locate tunnels, real estate professionals that are negotiating land use agreements with foreign governments, and environmental professionals to assist the task force commander with establishing theater environmental policies and track environmental action items.
“The great thing about USACE is the whole USACE enterprise system,” Farnsworth said. “We can tap into resources across USACE like specializations such as dam safety, environmental engineering and others.”
Another critical asset USACE brings to the mission is the USACE Reachback Operations Center, Farnsworth said.
The USACE Reachback Operation Center, part of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, provides a reach back engineering capability to support contingency and natural disaster response operations. Deployed units are linked to subject matter experts within the government, private industry, or academia to research and obtain solutions to complex technical problems.
“The reachback capabilities have been huge,” Farnsworth said. “It allows us to tap into professional engineering resources anytime.”
Though the Corps of Engineers plays a vital role in support to OIR, USACE’s impact to the Central Command area of responsibility extends beyond just this contingency,” Farnsworth, who also serves as the Army Central Command engineer, said.
“USACE has a huge role in the Central Command area of responsibility,” he said. “If you look back, USACE actually built the Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, another example of their great impact on military operations in the Middle East.”
USACE currently has resident offices in several countries in the Middle East. These offices are currently managing and executing several major projects that support the U.S. military.
“A lot of what USACE does is build facilities for people or equipment so that when the time comes, they can quickly be moved into theater to combat whatever threat may exist there,” Farnsworth said.
No matter what the threat or contingency, Farnsworth says USACE is always there and ready to assist.
“I’m thankful for the great support USACE has provided to the Combined Joint Task Force and Army Central Command,” he said. “It’s been relevant, responsive and has really benefitted the Warfighter in the execution of the mission.”